The Redemption of the Fish

Redemption_FishThe first film in this year’s Catalan strand at the Cambridge Film Festival, THE REDEMPTION OF THE FISH is a pleasingly small-scale story of a young man’s journey of discovery set amongst the canals and faded glory of Venice. After the death from cancer of his mother and using details gleaned from the letters she has kept over the years, Marc arrives in the city from his Barcelona home, looking to track down his absent father Paco with the simple aim of taking his photograph.

What Marc discovers in the Italian city, after locating the bookshop which Paco owns, is not the two dimensional monster he has created in his head (with the help of his grandmother) but rather an open and warm man who, with his new partner Lucia, invites Marc into their home and their lives. After this welcome Marc spends his days walking the avenues and alleyways of Venice, sometimes with Paco as his enthusiastic guide, sometimes alone, meeting the friends and families of his hosts along the way, including Lucia’s daughter Carlotta. Over the ensuing days Marc’s calls home to his grandmother and partner Nuri become less frequent as he slowly begins to fall in love with the city and its people – particularly Carlotta.

What becomes apparent though is that all is not as it seems in the little bookshop and in the lives of Paco and Lucia. Paco’s flamboyant former life as (among other things) a Los Angeles filmmaker and a Tangiers coffee shop owner begins to take on a darker appearance, as the legality of his current work appears more and more questionable.

an interesting view of a city which is all too often reduced to novelty

Marc’s search for his father to try and fill in the gaps in his life, particularly after his mother’s death, is beautifully directed, as is the fragile love story between Marc and Carlotta – this becomes a touching and hope-filled centre to the middle movement of the film, as well as a great way of discovering the back streets of Venice. This is helped by delicate performances from the cast, especially both the central characters; Marc is played with vacant charm and touching optimism by Miquel Quer and Samantha Silvestri has rightly won plaudits and awards for her beguiling but troubled Carlotta, who seems to be searching for something just like Marc. The sense of a group of people who are, for different reasons, living in the shadow of Paco’s exciting life story is palpable and intriguing.

Problems creep in when the film flirts with the criminal element of the story. The director seems to have thought it necessary to add weight and jeopardy to the film, when actually all it does is distract from the much more engaging personal stories, resulting in a sagging last half hour tying up loose ends that didn’t need to be there in the first place.

For all that, THE REDEMPTION OF THE FISH is a delightfully engaging film with lots of charm and plenty to say about family, the lies and half truths that we all tell each other, and the possibility of redemption through love; and is marred only by the director’s apparent lack of faith in the (admittedly slight) central story and its ability to hold the audience’s attention. Well worth seeing for the performances and an interesting view of a city which is all too often reduced to novelty, even though the lack of pace in the final act holds it back from fulfilling its early promise.

THE REDEMPTION OF THE FISH screens again on Sunday 29th September at 10.45 – book tickets here

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2 thoughts on “The Redemption of the Fish”

  1. I cannot help thinking that this analysis is, in parts, missing something : if Paco simply is ‘an open and warm man’, we have to remember that he is confronted unannounced, in Marc, with the son whose mother he left when Marc was nearly two, and that it is Lucia who prompts Paco to make the offer of hospitality. Is Paco really, with all his guilt and excuses, just going to give Marc the brush-off ?
    As to ‘weight and jeopardy’, they were there, hinted at, from the start, because we do not know what the motivation is for Marc to be trying to see his father (and how Marc’s grandmother, seeking information from afar, fits in), i.e. whether she has sent Marc there to do this man (whose connection to Marc we do not yet know) some harm – it is suggested at, just as there is a suggestion of threat or menace with one of the actors in the Commedia dell’Arte performance.
    Since I did not think that the last thirty minutes sagged at all (and I do not follow what the ‘loose ends’ are), there is nothing to which to attribute such a failure – but, as to the ‘criminal element’, I have to ask what interest there would be in Marc catching up with his father twenty years on if he just is a nice bloke, and Marc did not end up feeling that he has to confront Paco with how his version of his life since he left differs from what Marc learns from Carlotta ? It is not crucial that there is some illegality as such, but, as the film clearly references Don’t Look Now (1973), it is fitting that there should be some injury, and it is as good a way as any to justify it.

  2. This film lacked coherent storytelling skills. Marc arrives in Venice to take a photograph of his estranged father (a man who mysteriously is 20 cm taller than Marc), his father invites him into his home and her stays there. No real conflict comes out of the encounter, nothing is at stake. The story is over in 5 minutes, and the next 85 minutes are just filler – it’s fortunate it’s set in Venice which gives a beautiful backdrop, and plenty of lovely things to point a camera towards. A few things happen, but none of them develop into a cohesive whole. Marc’s mobile rings all the time, sometimes he answers it, sometimes he doesn’t, sometimes he leaves long messages for his girlfriend. It became an annoying motif; it would have been more productive dramatically to actually put characters in the same place and have them react to one another.

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